3/4/2021, 6 p.m.
We hope that residents of Richmond’s public housing communities will offer their thoughts on what qualities the next CEO of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority should have and what challenges he or she will face.
The agency serves more than 10,000 people, and they certainly deserve a leader who is both committed to their safety and well-being in public housing and committed to doing a better job than RRHA’s last chief executive officer.
Damon E. Duncan lasted about 11 months in the job before he announced he was out of here. RRHA may have almost the same high level of turnover with chief executive officers that Richmond Public Schools has had with superintendents.
We realize both jobs are high pressure, and both take a visionary people-person who is unafraid of dealing with angry or upset folks, who can remain calm when all havoc breaks loose, such as boilers that conk out in the winter or cooling systems that break down in the sweltering summer, but who can work adroitly to fix all types of problems as quickly as possible in the best way possible while moving ahead on larger goals with staff and the public joining in the vision and the journey.
Granted, that may sound more like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny than a real person.
Still, Mr. Duncan was criticized for his lack of commitment to the job and to the people living in public housing, many of our city’s poorest residents. He was criticized — justifi- ably — for keeping dozens of apartments in Creighton Court vacant while RRHA had a list of 2,000 families waiting to get into subsidized housing.
He also was rightly criticized for taking hundreds of residents to court who owed back rent and initiating evic- tion proceedings against people who were in arrears for less than $100.
This is not the type of CEO that RRHA needs going forward. The city is trying to come through a pandemic and residents everywhere, including in public housing, need a leader who can help them get back on their feet.
We believe those who live in RRHA housing know better than non-residents what the problems are, what the solutions may be and what it will take to lead the agency. They should have the most say in what’s needed in the next CEO and who should get the job.
We hope the RRHA Board of Commissioners is serious about wanting input from residents and the public and not just checking off a box for public engagement/feedback required on a government form. This is serious business and the needs of residents must be listened to, respected and acted upon if the agency and its new CEO are to be successful.